Cheap ways to watch TV: A hot trend for viewers fed up with expensive cable and streaming subscriptions

One of the most notable moments during the 2023 Super Bowl broadcast was a commercial. No surprise there. But this wasn’t an ad with big stars, beer or a blockbuster. Instead, it was a place that made fans think something seriously messed up with their TV.

Initially, play-by-play announcers Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen welcomed viewers back to the Fox network’s Super Bowl coverage. Then the pair was abruptly interrupted and it seemed that a mysterious force had taken control and switched channels, zapping from “Next Level Chef” to “Miss Congeniality” to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and so on.

Once football fans realized their TV hadn’t gone evil, they realized the short spot was an ad for Tubi, a streaming service millions of viewers had probably never heard of. Although Tubi aired a more conventional ad during the Super Bowl — featuring people in life-size bunny costumes throwing hapless people down a huge rabbit hole to hype up Tubi’s content — the shorter ad really caught viewers’ attention.

Tubi is a service that offers free streaming TV. In the extremely confusing world of media acronyms, Tubi is known as an ad-supported video-on-demand or AVOD service. A newer acronym is FAST, which stands for free ad-supported streaming TV. True to the acronym, FAST is quickly building buzz as one of the hottest TV trends of the year.

What is the difference? As Variety explains, the FAST format is “essentially no different than watching a TV network. Unlike the other free streaming format – AVOD, where viewers select a title on demand and start from the beginning – FAST is a linear stream. This means that a FAST channel is selected via an electronic programming schedule, with the title on a channel that the viewer participates in.”

Such Internet-delivered services may offer channels focused on specific programs – for example, a full “Dateline” channel, which is essentially an ongoing marathon of episodes that allows viewers to dive in and watch what’s on that moment at the moment – or local and national news channels. Choices also often include TV series and movies, both old and more recent.

These are examples of the growing popularity of what you could simply call cheap TV. Whatever you call them, the choices for free or cheap ways to watch are on the rise, for reasons such as viewers tired of skyrocketing cable bills, annoyed by rising prices for streaming services and, in general, wondering where to spend their limited entertainment dollars in a time of economic uncertainty.

Mentor Nyesha Arrington, Mentor and Executive Producer Gordon Ramsay and Mentor Richard Blais in ‘Next Level Chef’, a series that airs on Fox and is also available on the free streaming service Tubi.

While Tubi made a splash with its Super Bowl ads, other free, ad-supported streaming TV services are vying for attention. Top contenders include Amazon’s Freevee, formerly known as IMDb TV; Pluto TV; playing Xumo; and the Roku channel.

Unlike subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV+, Paramount+, HBO Max, and others, these services are free. But you will have to endure ad breaks. This ritual may sound familiar to anyone who watches broadcast TV – ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC or The CW – where an episode of “Young Sheldon” or “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” is interrupted by commercials. Although “FAST” services come over the Internet, the format feels a bit like a throwback to old-fashioned, traditional “I Love Lucy” style commercial TV.

Basically, the free ad-supported streaming services offer a sort of mishmash of vintage shows, old movies, newer shows, and more recent movies, along with some original programming. For example, Tubi is a division of Fox Entertainment, so it’s not surprising to see many shows that also air on the Fox broadcast network (“The Masked Singer,” for example). You can also choose from specific channels ranging from an ABC News Channel to a “Court TV” channel.

"Lovecraft country"

Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft Country. (Photo: Elizabeth Morris/HBO)

Several free, ad-supported streaming TV services offer TV shows and movies, including old movies like “Leave it to Beaver,” acclaimed series like HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” (starring the currently ubiquitous Jonathan Majors) and artsy fare like “Carol,” the Cate Blanchett/Rooney Mara drama directed by Todd Haynes, who has a home in Portland.

Xumo Play, owned by Comcast, says it offers more than 290 different channels and “tens of thousands of movie and TV titles to choose from,” including channels for music, news, stand-up comedy and more. Its offerings are what seem like a pretty random collection of obscure stuff, contemporary classics (“LA Confidential”), recent Oscar winners (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), TV shows (“Moesha”), and more.

Pluto TV, one of the more established free ad-supported streaming TV services, is owned by Paramount. Since the company owns a wide variety of brands, including CBS, Showtime, Paramount +, MTV and more, Pluto TV offers an impressive number of options.

Choices include a “Stories by AMC” channel, featuring “Breaking Bad” episodes; “Star Trek” channels; a “60 Minutes” channel; tons of “True Crime” shows; and movies, including animated films from Oregon’s Laika studio (“Coraline”, “Kubo and the Two Strings”, ParaNorman”), along with vintage series such as “Gunsmoke”, “Sanford and Son”, “Matlock”, ” The Twilight Zone,” “Perry Mason,” “Laverne & Shirley,” and “The Brady Bunch.”

Judy Justice - Judge Judy Sheindlin

Judy Justice – Judge Judy SheindlinJames Dimmock/Amazon Freevee

Amazon’s Freevee, which used to be called iMDb TV, also plays a role for viewers. Unlike Amazon Prime Video, Freevee costs nothing. Besides the library, Freevee is now the only place to find new episodes of Judith Sheindlin Dispensing Wisdom, featuring “Judy Justice,” a spin-off of the long-running syndicated hit “Judge Judy.” The service originals also include ‘Leverage: Redemption’ and ‘Bosch: Legacy’.

Even if much of what’s on these services consists of odd mixes of classics, barely remembered duds, more true crime shows than anyone could possibly watch, and movies and shows you might already see on cable, there are signs that free, ad-supported streaming TV is gaining traction, especially as so-called “prestige” outlets annoy subscribers by removing titles from their libraries.

Leverage: Redemption Season 2

Aleyse Shannon, Beth Riesgraf, Christian Kane and Noah Wyle in ‘Leverage: Redemption’.Sam Lothridge/Amazon Freevee

It was recently announced that Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) and Juliette Lewis (“Yellowjackets”) will star in “The Thicket,” a Western that will stream on Tubi. Last year, the mock biopic “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” helped boost the profile of the Roku channel.

As free, ad-supported streaming services start generating hits of their own — the process that transformed Netflix from a DVD-by-mail company into a global entertainment giant — budget-conscious viewers will be able to watch even more shows, without paying for cable, or anything else. streaming subscription.


Wondering how to watch ad-supported streaming TV services for free? Here are details on some of the more popular options.

Amazon Freevee: The Amazon-owned service offers a library of movies and TV shows along with some originals. The app can be accessed on many devices, including Fire TV, Roku, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Apple TV, iPhones and iPads, Android TV devices, Comcast Xfinity X-Class and Flex boes, and a variety of smart TVs. Viewers can also stream Amazon Freevee programming from a web browser and through the Amazon Freevee Channel on the Prime Video ad. For more information:

Crackle: Owned by Chicken Soul for the Soul Entertainment, Crackle is an ad-supported video-on-demand service that allows viewers to search for and choose from movies, TV shows, and original programs. The library contains all four seasons of the popular BBC series “Sherlock”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, along with a “Funny Women” category that includes “The Carol Burnett Show”, “French and Saunders”, ” The Flying Nun” and more. Movie titles range from ‘All That Jazz’ to Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning vehicle ‘Monster’. Crackle is available on a variety of devices, including Amazon Fire and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, PlayStation 4, Apple iPhone and iPad, Roku, and more. For a list, go to: For more information:

Pluto TV: The Paramount-owned service offers more than 300 live linear channels and thousands of on-demand titles, according to the company. Pluto TV can be viewed on a variety of phones, tablets, browsers, streaming devices and smart TVs. For a list, go to: For more information:

Roku Channel: The service reportedly offers thousands of free TV shows and movies, over 350 live TV channels, Roku originals, and more. To watch, add the Roku channel to any Roku streaming device, compatible Samsung Smart TV, or compatible Amazon Fire TV device. Viewers can also watch at or on the Roku mobile app.

Tubi: The service is a division of Fox Entertainment and claims to offer more than 50,000 movies and TV shows, including some local and live news and sports channels. Tubi is available on Android and iOS mobile devices, Amazon Echo Show, Google Nest Hub Max, Comcast Xfinity X1, Cox Contour, and connected television devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Vizio TVs, Sony TVs, Samsung TVs, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, PlayStation 5 and more. Consumers can also view Tubi content on the web at

Play xumo: The company says it offers more than 290 channels and tens of thousands of movie and TV titles. Xumo Play or Xumo powered applications are available on many devices including Amazon Fire devices, Android mobile, Apple TV, Roku, Samsung, Xfinity X1 devices and more. For more information: For more information:

—Kristi Turnquist

503-221-8227;; @Kristiturnquist

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